2 in 3 Voters at Least Somewhat Concerned About Voting in Person During Coronavirus

Voters also have more trust in remote voting methods than they did after Iowa caucuses

Polling stations throughout the were shut down as Gov. Mike DeWine called for the state's primaries to be pushed back to June on March 17, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Sixty-six percent of voters said they're at least somewhat concerned about voting in person during the coronavirus outbreak. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
March 20, 2020 at 5:14 pm ET
  • 66% of registered voters said they were at least somewhat concerned about voting in person during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • 42% said they were confident that votes cast online would be counted accurately, a 12-point jump from last month.

As more states weigh whether to push back their primary votes, most voters say they are at least somewhat concerned about placing their ballot in person during the coronavirus outbreak — and they’re more trusting of online voting systems amid the pandemic than they were after the Iowa caucuses, new Morning Consult data shows.  

Among a sample of 1,796 registered voters, 66 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned with the prospect of voting in person during the outbreak, which has prompted many communities to practice social distancing and avoid crowds to slow down the spread of the virus. 

However, concerns about voting during the pandemic haven’t trumped those surrounding possible cyberattacks and technical glitches: Seventy-four percent said they were at least somewhat concerned about technical glitches in online systems miscounting their vote, while 71 percent said the same about voting equipment being hacked. 

Though voters were most likely to say they are concerned about in-person voting, equipment hacks and potential technical glitches miscounting their votes, 53 percent of respondents said they were concerned about Russian attempts to influence the 2020 presidential election. 

The new survey, which was conducted March 17-20, has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

In the six weeks since a voting tabulation mobile app delayed the results of the Iowa caucuses, confidence in technology-enabled voting methods, such as casting votes online and through mobile apps, has seen double-digit growth. In this month’s poll, 42 percent said they were confident that votes cast online would be counted accurately — up 12 points from the 30 percent who said the same in a Feb. 7-9 survey conducted following the Iowa caucuses. 

And confidence in voting through mobile apps and blockchain-enabled systems also saw gains of 10 points and 9 points, respectively. However, voters still have the most confidence in ballots cast via paper ballots that are scanned into a machine and electronic voting machines that provide paper receipts, with a respective 72 percent and 71 percent saying this month they were confident their votes would be counted accurately.

With the coronavirus continuing to spread throughout the United States, which as of Friday afternoon has more than 16,000 cases and more than 210 deaths, more states have been weighing whether to push their presidential primary contests back. So far, Indiana, Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio and Puerto Rico have postponed their primaries, while Wyoming suspended in-person voting altogether.

Calls to expand online voting efforts have increased as the pandemic spreads, with several voting technology vendors — including Smartmatic, Democracy Live, Votem and Voatz — saying that state election officials have already started contacting them, The Information reported last week.

Between the February and March surveys, the likelihood of voters heading to the polls if their state decided to rely on only one of the aforementioned voting options either dropped or saw no significant change across the board, except for with two options that saw small gains: mail-in votes and votes cast online. 

While most other in-person voting methods saw drops within the margin of error, a slightly larger share of March respondents said that they would still be likely to vote in the presidential election if their state had only online voting (55 percent) or mail-in ballots (62 percent) than those who said the same last month post-Iowa. 

With the coronavirus continuing to spread throughout the United States, which as of Friday afternoon has more than 16,000 cases and more than 210 deaths, more states have been weighing whether to push their presidential primary contests back. So far, Indiana, Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio and Puerto Rico have postponed their primaries, while Wyoming suspended in-person voting altogether.

Calls to expand online voting efforts have increased as the pandemic spreads, with several voting technology vendors — including Smartmatic, Democracy Live, Votem and Voatz — saying that state election officials have already started contacting them, The Information reported last week.

Between the February and March surveys, the likelihood of voters heading to the polls if their state decided to rely on only one of the aforementioned voting options either dropped or saw no significant change across the board, except for with two options that saw small gains: mail-in votes and votes cast online. 

While most other in-person voting methods saw drops within the margin of error, a slightly larger share of March respondents said that they would still be likely to vote in the presidential election if their state had only online voting (55 percent) or mail-in ballots (62 percent) than those who said the same last month post-Iowa. 

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